Painter and designer of mosaics, stained glass and coloured bas-reliefs. Born in London, he studied at Westminster School of Art under Frederick Brown, RA Schools and in Paris. He achieved wide recognition through the RA where he exhibited regularly from 1885. He specialised in landscapes, figure subjects and religious scenes and he was responsible for the mosaics in the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Cathedral. Elected an Associate of the RA in 1914, he became a full member in 1922. Bell belonged to the group of artist-craftsmen who brought about the last flowering of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. He painted in oil and watercolour and was among the pioneers of the revival of the use of tempera, becoming a member of the Society of Painters in Tempera. Anning Bell was also a member of the little-known Society of Twenty Five Painters and also contributed to the magazine Artwork and cartoons for mosaics by him were illustrated in the 1924 summer edition.
He was an illustrator and also worked in stained glass and mosaic, making many of his design at the Glass House, Fulham. His bas-reliefs in coloured plaster are best represented by the interior decorations at Le Bois de Moutiers, a house in Varengeville, Normandy, designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1898. He was also responsible for executing the decorative friezes designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Miss Cranston's Buchanan Street tea rooms in Glasgow. Bell's appreciation of early Italian art forms the basis of his work in mosaic, a medium he used to great effect in other public commissions in London including the Horniman Museum. He was an active member, and in 1921 Master, of the Art Workers' Guild, as well as a member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, helping to organize the latter's shows in London, Turin, Brussels and Paris. He was an instructor in painting and design at University College, Liverpool in 1894 and head of design at Glasgow School of Art from 1911, and Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art, London, from 1918 to 1924. His wife, Laura Richard-Troncy, a pupil of Alphonse Legros, assisted him with gesso-work and gilding. Examples of his work are in the collections the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery, the Tate Gallery and in art galleries in Australia.
Tempest A Comedy by William Shakespeare illustrated by Robert Anning Bell. Published by Freemantle & Co. London, 1901.
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, illustrated by Robert Anning Bell. Published by J. M. Dent, London, 1895.